Strong earthquake hits Papau New Guinea

SYDNEY: A strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Papua New Guinea on Wednesday, the US Geological Survey said, with seismologists warning there could be considerable damage.

The quake, just eight kilometres (five miles) deep, hit 19 kilometres east of the small town of Aitape on the Pacific nation's north coast, which has a population of around 8,000, at 08:55 am (2255 GMT Tuesday), the USGS said.

No destructive tsunami warning was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre but it cautioned that earthquakes of this size could sometimes generate local tsunamis within 100 kilometres of the epicentre.

"Authorities in the region should be aware of this possibility and take appropriate action," it said. Geoscience Australia measured the quake at a depth of 20 kilometres and 30 kilometres from Aitape and said around 60,000 people would be in the exposure zone.

"This would include outlying local villages," seismologist Steve Tatham told AFP. "At this stage we have heard nothing about the effect but it is quite large and there would have been a high level of shaking. "There is the possibility of considerable damage. It certainly could bring buildings down."

Quakes of such magnitude are common in impoverished PNG, which sits on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire", a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.

A giant tsunami in 1998 killed more than 2,000 people near Aitape.

A 6.6-magnitude quake struck the country's Bougainville Island on Sunday, but there were no reports of damage or injuries.

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